The Write Stuff

“You know Judy Garland, so try and talk her into doing it.” It was Louis B.Mayer talking to “Meet Me in St. Louis” screenwriter Irving Brecher. He now tells me Judy didn’t want to do the picture…she was sure Margaret O’Brien would steal it from her. Brecher met Judy in Louis B’s office and read her his script–however, as he tells it, “I  punched up all of Judy’s lines and ‘threw away’ Margaret’s.” Brecher will reveal other classic Hollywood secrets Sept.15 when he appears in a Q&A at the Writers Guild Theater after a screening of “Meet Me in St. Louis.” It’s part of a “Living Legends” program that day, “celebrating our heritage.” Two other films and their screenwriters, which will be appearing follow:

Fay Kanin reveals she (and Michael Kanin) started writing “Teacher’s Pet,” “as a serious piece, and we couldn’t sell it.” They then learned that Garson Kanin had switched “Born Yesterday” into (a successful) comedy. “We re-wrote it and Pertlberg and Seaton bought it in a second. And Clark Gable and Doris Day successfully starred in it. And I had a role in a scene with Clark Gable. Paramount, in its infinite wisdom filled the film’s newspaper city room scene with real newspapermen. It was 1958, and I had already been writing the column for Variety five years. I didn’t flub Kanin’s dialog in my scene with Gable. Perhaps she’ll have a different take when she appears with the screening of “Teacher’s Pet” in the Sept. 15  program.

After a scene between Spencer Tracy and Bob Ryan being shot in “Bad Day at Black Rock,” Tracy asked screenwriter Millard Kaufman, “Does Bob Ryan scare you?” “No,” said Kaufman. “Well he scares the shit out of me,” said Tracy. Kaufman said Tracy had respect for writers–which is rare from you-know-who. Kaufman was Oscar-nominated for that script, as well as for his screenplay for “Take The High Ground.” He’ll also appear with his “Bad Day” at its Guild screening Sept.15.  Kaufman, 90, continues his writing career with his first novel, “Bowl of Cherries (Life Is Not)” for which, he happily tells me, three companies wish to film. Get him to tell its bizarre story (of a 14 year-old’s hegira to Iraq) when he appears with the WGA’s “Living Legends” screening of “Bad Day at Black Rock” Sept. 15. Call the WGA at 323-782-4692 for this trio of filmwriters, their films and follies.

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